Wednesday, October 4, 2017

RED CHRISTMAS (2016) (Artsploitation Blu-ray Review)


Label: Artsploitation Films
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Durataion: 81 Minutes
Audio: Enlish
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Craig Anderson
Cast: Dee Wallace, Geoff Morrell, Sarah Bishop, Janis McGowan, David Collins, Bjorn Stewart, Gerald Odwyer, Sam Campbell 

Synopsis: Horror legend Dee Wallace (The Hills Have Eyes, The Howling, E.T., Cujo, Critters) stars as the stressed-out mother of a squabbling family, gathered together in a remote Outback estate on Christmas Eve. When a mysterious, deformed young man named Cletus appears at their door, things soon change from petty insults to bloody, imaginatively orchestrated violence as Wallace attempts to protect her family from the vengeful intruder. The film deliriously infuses comedy, dark family secrets with outlandish gore and adds the always controversial subject of abortion in its blood-stained mix.

Australian director Craig Anderson's Red Christmas (2016) is a gleefully blood-red abortion-themed Christmas slasher that you won't soon forget, opening with the bombing of an abortion clinic by pro-lifers, the explosion interrupts an abortion in progress, in the end the fetus is unceremoniously tossed into a bucket, where it clings to life as evidenced when a bloody hand emerges from the bucket, it is rescued by a pro-lifer.

With that low-standard of taste established we move ahead twenty years to Christmas gathering at the home of Diane (Dee Wallace, The Howling) with all her children and in-laws gathered. We have her second husband Joe (Geoff Morrell, Rogue), down-syndrome afflicted twenty-something Jerry (Gerard Odwyer), uptight daughter Suzy (Sarah Bishop) and her preacher hubby Peter (David Collins), the very pregnant, stoned and horny Ginny (Janis McGavin) and husband Scott (Bjorn Stewart), plus adopted daughter Hope (Deelia Meriel). The gathering is a typical Xmas get together with the usual amount of family tensions, particularly from Virginia who is angered that her mother is on the cusp of selling their childhood home to go on a European vacation, and Suzy who has been struggling to have a child is resentful of her preggers sister Ginny - all pretty typical family/holiday stresses. 

The difficult yuletide gathering is interrupted when stranger draped in a black cloak and covered in bandages shows up on the doorstep. In the spirit of the holiday Diane allows the stranger into her home, his name is Cletus (Sam Campbell) and he has down's syndrome. While seated in the living room Cletus begins to read a letter to the group with a muffled voice, it's a note addressed to his mother, it has religious overtones that touches on the subject of abortion, which angers Diane, who angrily forces him to leave the home immediately. 

However, the cloaked Cetus shows up later in the night and a proper bloodbath ensues with family members meeting their doom at the end of his ax. Red Christmas is a fairly standard low-budget holiday themed slasher with a strange abortion  theme, it doesn't pretend to have a great deal of mystery about it, but it is bathed in blood and gore, which is executed nicety with what looks to be old school, practical, special effects. The killer draped in a Grim Reaper style cloak makes a visually intriguing killer, and his origin story is somewhat unique - it feels very Troma-esque at times - you could have called this one The Aborted Avenger, especially when we catch a very brief glimpse of his deformed face! 

Dee Wallace, bless her, still has the strength and presence she brought to her roles in Cujo (1983) and The Howling (1981), chewing on the scenery with the matriarch trying desperately to stop the extinction her bloodline at the hands of the deformed abortion survivor - who may or may not be her son. The kills are well done if not completely original, we have someone being sliced in-half the long way down, someone getting their brains scrambled by a blender, and an umbrella through the eye - the latex and blood kills are fun - even when the budget limitations show through from time to time. 

The movie is drenched in red and green lighting, this is maybe the most retina-burning red movie since Argento's Suspiria (1977), every scene towards the final third is deeply lit by colored lighting - despite having had the power cut - which gives the whole thing a surreal feeling, which is both stylish and perhaps a way to cover-up some of the low-budget nature of the film, but it does feel overdone at a certain point. However, you cannot deny that this xmas slasher is bathed in more moody Christmas lighting than few films before it. 

Dee Wallace is playing this straight but the movie sure seems like a black comedy to me, most of the kids of this family are down right annoying, with he exception of down's syndrome afflicted Jerry, who turns out to be a very capable adversary and protector, but his sisters and their hubbies are just unsympathetic meat for the grinder, these are not victims you mourn for honestly. The mix of family dysfunction, abortion themes, pregnancy, special needs and bloody carnage make for an odd mixture, but I loved it. 

I couldn't quite get a grip on the abortion theme, was this movie pro or con on the topic of abortion? On one hand if Wallace's character hadn't of had the abortion none of this would have happened, on the other hand, if the pro-lifer hadn't of rescued the deformed fetus from the waste bucket that too would have been the end of the story, I don't mind the ambiguity if that's what it is, this is a pretty straight ahead slasher, and the abortion theme is just another layer of exploitation.  

Special Features:
- Feature-length commentary with writer-director Craig Anderson (20 min)
- Dee Wallace speaks - Director Craig Anderson Interviews Dee Wallace (20 min) 
An Interview with Gerard Odwyer - Craig Anderson and Actor Sam Campbell (Cletus) Speak with Actor Gerald Odwyer (10 min) 
- Blooper Reel (3 min)
- Deleted scene (1 min) 
- Craig Anderson Mini-Interview (2 min)

Dee Wallace shines in the yuletide bloodbath that is Red Christmas (2016), it's great to see her still doing her thing in this fun and cynical abortion-themed slasher movie. While the movie is not a stone-cold Christmas terror classic along the lines of Black Christmas (1973) it is a fun dysfunctional family Christmas slasher with loads of gore, you should give this a turn in your Christmas horror-thon this year, you won't be disappointed.